Michigan Senate Approves To Keep 'Under God' In Pledge
Updated On: Mar 24 2004 05:02:15 AM EST
The Michigan Senate Wednesday approved two resolutions encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional.
The Senate voted 32-2 on each of the measures.
Only Democratic Senators Gilda Jacobs of Huntington Woods and Liz Brater of Ann Arbor voted against both resolutions.
The language of both Senate resolutions is identical.
Both urge the United States Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "under God."
The resolutions were sponsored by Senator Patty Birkholz of Saugatuck Township and Bill Hardiman of Kentwood. Both are Republicans.
High Court Hears 'Pledge Of Allegiance' Arguments
Years of legal wrangling boil down to minutes in a courtroom Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case involving recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms.
Attorneys for the Elk Grove School District in California are squaring off with Sacramento, Calif., atheist Dr. Michael Newdow (pictured below, left) in front of the Supreme Court.
Newdow, who brought the case to the court system on behalf of his daughter, who attended an Elk Grove school, told the court Wednesday that the government should stay out of religion. He said the disputed words amount to "indoctrinating children."
While schoolchildren don't have to recite the pledge, Newdow said classroom recitations still put pressure on children such as his 9-year-old daughter.
But some justices said they're not sure if the words are aimed at expressing religion -- or simply uniting the country.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted that Congress unanimously added the words "under God" to the pledge in 1954. The pledge was written in 1892.
Newdow replied, "That's only because no atheists can be elected to office." Some in the audience started clapping, and the chief justice threatened to kick them out.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Newdow, ordering students in Western states within its jurisdiction to abstain from saying "Under God" in the pledge.
The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, and attorneys on both sides have been preparing for months.
"It's not about people who believe in God versus people who don't believe in God. It's people who believe the Constitution had a brilliant idea to keep government and religion separate," Newdow said.
Sacramento attorney Terry Cassidy has prepared to represent the school district's position that the pledge is about patriotism, not religion.
"We feel that the pledge, the way it's currently worded, is an appropriate reflection of the political philosophy of the government," Cassidy said.
Attorney Steven Aden of the Christian Legal Society said removing "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance would deny the source of American liberties.
But Newdow said it's bizarre to argue that his right to be an atheist comes from God. And, he said,the pledge tells schoolchildren that their government believes there's a God.
Aden responded that "the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was enacted to protect citizens from the imposition of a state religion, not to enforce a functional state atheism."
Each Side Gets 30 Minutes Before Court Each side gets 30 minutes before the court. And during that time, the justices will interrupt and ask questions.
"A lot of it is trying to anticipate what they'll ask and how you should respond," Cassidy said.
"I've been working on it. I should be able to do a good job, hopefully, a great job," Newdow said.
Susan Bloch, who teaches constitutional law at Georgetown University, said the Pledge of Allegiance is a hot-button issue.
"The justices are very well prepared even for the most boring cases. They will be especially prepared for this one," Bloch said.
The superintendent of the school system near Sacramento said it's not a popularity contest. He called it a "common sense issue."
Custody Dispute May Lead To Dismissal Of Challenge
Wednesay's challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance might never have reached the U.S. Supreme Court except for a collision of faith between two parents.
The girl's mother, Sandra Banning, is a born-again Christian locked in a bitter custody dispute with Newdow, whom she never married. Backed by former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, she has told the justices that her daughter has no objection to reciting "under God" in school each day.
Should the justices wish to sidestep the church-state issues, the parents' custody quarrel offers them an easy out. They may just decide that Newdow, because he did not have custody at the time, could not sue without the mother's consent, and dismiss the case outright.
Pledge Supporters Gather Outside Court The Pledge of Allegiance was being recited outside the Supreme Court Wednesday -- as the justices prepared to decide whether the pledge will remain intact.
Supporters of the pledge have been emphasizing the words "under God" as they recite the pledge outside the court.
The Rev. Rob Schenck -- who heads the National Clergy Council -- told a crowd of about 40 people that the court will decide "whether America remains one nation under God or whether we shake a fist in God's face."
Dozens of people camped outside the court on a cold night, to be among the first in line to hear the arguments.
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